Personnel: Larry Parker (guitar/vocals), Roy Michaels (bass), Bob Smith (Keyboards), Michael Equine (drums). (Later added Paul Johnson (guitar), Jan Ungar (bass, violin)).
All Music Guide
Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys might make the list of one-hit wonders, and most histories concentrated on that hit. But if you listened to FM radio in the early 70s, it was another one of their songs that you'll remember with a smile on your face.
The group started in New York, playing clubs and signing a record contract. They got their friend Jimi Hendrix to produce their first album, which gave them their hit "Good Old Rock 'n Roll." Hendrix even hired them as his opening act.
"Good Old Rock 'n Roll" was about the rock that the band grew up with, and actually used quotes from several well-know songs, more of a medley than a song. There was a verse in the beginning, which then segued into "Sweet Little Sixteen," "Long Tall Sally," "Chantilly Lace," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On," "Blue Suede Shoes," and "Party Doll" before returning to the original tune.
This was actually quite new to many listeners of the time. If you missed the 50s, you didn't often have the chance to hear these songs (oldies stations were just getting started). I'm sure many of those who bought the song had never heard the originals before.
But the hit only went to #25 and there was turmoil and turnover. Charlie Chin left the band, and was replaced by Jan Unger and Paul Johnson, who recorded their second album, Albion Doo-wha.
It didn't do well, but it spawned one of the great FM radio tracks: Jay Unger's "Strike a Match and Light Another":
In the first days of this country when the buffalo roamed the land,
All the saddle tramps and cowboys used to roll their own by hand.
Well they'd swing up to the saddle on their ass or on their horse
And recite a little ditty that went like this of course.
When your feet are in the stirrups and your ass is on the ground
Cause the grass that you's been eating is the finest stuff around
Well let us not remember boys and let us not forget
Strike a match and light another marijuana cigarette.
Yes, a song about the joys of marijuana. This was sung to a cheerful tune that was just plain goofy, with some non sequitur lyrics and a great deal of wit. It was really impossible to listen to without smiling, even if you weren't stoned. And the free use of the word "ass" was also a plus in a time when it was banned from the radio. Perfectly legitimate here, of course, since it was talking about a donkey. (Right.)
But the song wasn't enough. The group struggled on for a few more years before calling it quits and have pretty much been forgotten.
Except for one. Jay Unger went off on his own tangent writing folk-influenced music. One piece, "Ashokan Farewell" was picked by filmmaker Ken Burns to be included in his epic documentary, The Civil War. It was played throughout the miniseries (25 times, according to Wikipedia) and became the theme song for it. Many people even think it was an actual Civil War era song. I must say I was delighted to realize the song was by the same person who wrote "Strike a match."
The group's albums are hard to find, of course. I'm not sure if they even made it to CD. But they were a tiny but memorable piece of rock history.